New Hampshire, much like Iowa, receives a disproportionate amount of attention relative to its electoral importance due its primacy in the election calendar. Once the primaries finish, general election campaigns usually pay far greater attention to states possessing substantially larger electoral vote hauls. Not this year:
There will be far more to the Granite State political story than even Mitt Romney, winner of the Republican primary in January, could have contemplated.
A red state turned purple
A generation ago, no one would have thought that New Hampshire, with its sturdy Republican tradition, could possibly be a presidential battleground. Between Franklin Roosevelt’s last campaign in 1944 and Bill Clinton’s first in 1992, New Hampshire voted Republican every time but in the 1964 Lyndon Johnson landslide. Even then Carroll county went for Barry Goldwater, the only one in New England to do so. But since then this state, once resolutely red. Clinton won the state in 1992 by a hair, and then Gov. George W. Bush seized it by just as slim a margin — but would have lost both the state, and the 2000 election, had not Ralph Nader taken about 22,000 votes, almost all of them from Vice President Al Gore.
Now it is open to changing colors, from red to blue and then back again twice, and the irony is that this year’s election is between two men who were defeated in primary fights here in 2008 and left for dead, only to recover, Obama later that year and Romney in four years’ time. The velocity of the change in staid old New Hampshire has been stunning, which is why Romney’s forces believe they will prevail here — a notion that has prompted Obama to intensify his organizational efforts.
Republican routs at the state level
Two years ago, Democrats controlled the state House (224-176) and the state Senate (14-10), only to become the victims of a stunning GOP surge that gave the Republicans overpowering margins in both, 293-104 in the House and 19-5 in the Senate. Meanwhile, the Republicans took back two congressional seats, elected a senator to an open seat and overturned a 3-2 disadvantage on the Executive Council, an institution with colonial antecedents and functions so peculiar and inscrutable that no other state has copied it, and now have a 5-0 margin there.